Culture change in a lockdown
It’s not just schools who have had to adapt, Munir Mamujee is the Managing Director of a UK based teacher recruiting agency. On March 17th he and his staff packed up the office and went home to work.
At the end of February I went to Abu Dhabi for the BSME conference. The conference never happened due to COVID-19 and I ended up in a lockdown situation at the hotel for 5 days. It was a rather surreal experience and one I hope I would never repeat.
Fast forward and here we are, all be it this time it has now been 10 weeks and counting since we closed the office. My team could have vanished, work could have ended and all of us could have been on our respective sofas watching daytime TV.
However, as Winston Churchill once said, ’Never let a good crisis go to waste.’
Yes we, like virtually every business out there have had to make some dramatic changes and accept that for some time to come, it’s not business as usual. As a business owner I initially went through the usual emotion of ‘woe is me’.
Head in hands, wondering what the hell we were going to do. 2 choices only. Shut up shop or fight. We fought.
When we packed up the office, the team went its separate ways. I don’t like working from home. Too many distractions. I am simply not designed that way, or so I thought. I also didn’t know how the team would cope with working remotely when for so many years we have existed in a totally collaborative environment. My worry was that being forced to work from home could be very demotivating and this would be absolutely disastrous.
I don’t think my initial concerns were unique to me.
If your business is purely office-based and you know nothing different, the prospect of having to work from home, probably in the dining room, conservatory, etc. is just awful . . . .
However, since the middle of March, I have noticed something quite remarkable. The culture that I was so desperate to achieve and couldn’t manage in an office environment is now flourishing. We are communicating, sharing ideas, asking opinions and being extremely productive. Roles have been clearly defined, no blurred lines and peer involvement is sky high.
So why on earth has it taken a pandemic of such epic proportions for this to occur?
I think it had been sheer complacency.
When you see your colleagues every day, it takes no effort to nod, pass a quick hello as they wander past in the corridor, but that’s about it. Our belief is that because we all work in the same space, we can chat whenever we want, so, ironically, we make little effort and this simple human interaction falls by the wayside. Now we have to speak over Teams or Zoom. Sometimes we have to actually schedule a time just to have a chat. When we do speak, it has to be productive. Not necessarily about work but it has to mean something. Meetings tend to last longer. We want to talk. We want to engage and this indirectly is driving a new company culture that didn’t exist before.
How much can you take?
For us, this has meant that we are finding out more about each other than when we were sitting only a few feet away. Engagement is up, we listen more and we are helping each other more.
We motivate each other, keep spirits up, learn new skills and are better and stronger for it. There is certainly a ‘we are in it together’ mentality.
This in turn aids mental health at a time where this could be severely tested.
Again, I don’t think we are alone in this and I hope as you are reading this you have done a few head nods.
Positive culture can be borne out of a lockdown situation and strong bonds with employees and colleagues are being formed. We are having to collaborate, motivate, drive ideas and change. When we are all allowed to return to our office spaces we must ensure that this new culture continues.
In my opinion that is the (business) silver lining out of this very difficult situation we find ourselves in.
I leave you with my favourite quote. I am sure you all know where it is from and I believe it sums up the mood of all those businesses that are doing whatever it takes to keep their team together, remain positive and look to brighter and better times.
You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!